A new survey finds leaders of U.S. firms of at least 50 lawyers are confident about the future. The Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition Survey 2011 finds that 67 percent of the firm leaders who responded report higher gross revenue in 2010, and 73 percent report increased revenue per lawyer and profits per equity partner in 2010. Also, according to the survey, billing rates are up or will be up by a median of 4 percent in 2011 at the firms. Profitability is also improving at the firms: 53 percent report lower overhead in 2010, and 68 percent report a reduction in the number of equity partners. The survey finds that 27 percent of the firms de-equitized partners in 2010, and 16 percent expect to do so in 2011, just as 32 percent made fewer partnership offers in 2010, and 16 percent expect to make fewer offers in 2011. However, 87 percent of the firm leaders reported that their firms will add associates in 2011. Altman Weil surveyed managing partners and chairs at 805 firms with at least 50 lawyers in April and May, and 240 of the firm leaders returned completed surveys.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys